Today is a day for ranting.
Today is a good day.
Here we go.
Have you ever heard someone say “the female body is so complicated?”
Have you heard female genitals referred to as complex, mysterious, strange, alien, or elusive?
Have you ever heard the female orgasm described as “impossible” in large part because “it’s just more difficult to make it happen for women than it is for men”?
Perhaps you have heard the female body described this way your entire life, so none of this seems strange to you?
This is exactly the case for nearly every woman and girl in America today.
Today, we live in a world in which the female body is a “mystery.”
It’s complex. It’s elusive. (By the way, if you can get it to orgasm, you are a hero.)
Most people probably just basically think these sorts of statements are true. “Sure,” you may say. Of course that’s true. It just makes sense.
And even if people think that this whole mysterious idea is incorrect, it’s likely that they don’t find it problematic. So they don’t care all that much. What’s the big deal? Who cares if the female body is thought of as mysterious or not? Should anybody care? Does anybody care?
This girl does:
And she cares a lot. Here’s why:
I believe that “female complexity” – especially with regard to genitals – is a myth.
I believe we have constructed this myth over the course of centuries and decades. Throughout Western history, men have been considered normal. But women have been abnormal, deviant, tempting and even devilish. (Trust me, I study religion for a living.) Men have been the status quo. Women have been The Other.
Men’s bodies have been acceptable, and women’s bodies have not. Men’s bodies have been studied extensively and treated well, and women’s bodies have not. Men’s bodies have been applauded for their ability to rape, dominate, and insemniate, and women’s bodies have not.
Men’s pleasure has been and today continues to be thoroughly studied, advocated, and glorified. Think of all of the pop culture references to oral sex performed on men. Think of ‘milk shakes’ bringing all the boys to the yard. Think of Christina Aguilera in Eminem’s Slim Shady and who she gave head to first.
Think of all the drawings of penises you see scribbled over journals, lockers, graffiti walls, and even people’s faces when they pass out drunk. Think of being asked to join the “pen 15” club when you were in junior high school. Think of the way in which it is acceptable to say “penis” in public, but everyone kind of lowers their voice when they say “vagina.”
Think of all the Cosmo articles about how to please your man. Think of the expectations placed on your ability to perform oral sex on a man, starting from a young age. I very, very clearly remember a good friend of mine disappearing behind a factory with a boy to pleasure him when we were twelve years old. Twelve! She did not receive sexual attention from a man in a loving manner until years later. I also remember the high amount of pressure placed on me and my girlfriends as we began journeys into sexuality and adulthood, and needed to give our partners oral sex or else we were prude. I am by no means saying that the way we behaved was awesome. Nor am I saying that we need to stop teenagers from being sexual. Not at all. Neither is the case.
But what I am trying to demonstrate is that in our culture, male pleasure is very significant, and the male reproductive organs are much more acceptable than the female.
Nowadays, our culture is definitely less skitish about female pleasure, don’t get me wrong. But that doesn’t mean any significant battles have actually been won.
Deconstructing the myth
I believe that the whole idea that the female body is sooooo complex guys omg arises out of our culture’s attachment to and acceptance of male pleasure. It is a fabrication. It is a lie. It (subconsciously) justifies our persistent denial of female sexual equality and needs.
And it needs to stop. Now.
Imagine, if you will, a culture in which the female sex was dominant.
Is it not easy to reverse the roles? Is it not easy to imagine vulvas scrawled on subway doors, lewd pop culture images of men pleasuring women, and penises shunned as abnormal and complicated to please …. whereas vulvas are celebrated for their simplicity and ease for pleasuring?
Consider a diagram of each the male sexual organs and the female sexual organs.
If you remove as many mental biases as you can, can you not perhaps see that the penis and the vulva are actually not all that different? That they are actually not all that more simple or complicated than one another? In fact, the general anatomy of these two structures is the same, and made out of the same tissue! A clitoris is simply a small version of a penis – or, a much better way to put it: a penis is simply a large version of a clitoris. Lips are the female equivalent, more or less, of testes. And then there is a vagina, in which a penis can go. The female anatomy is not a huge mysterious complexity. It is not. It simply is NOT.
We only think it is, because we have been told it is.
I invite you then to think about what it takes to sexually pleasure male or female genitals. In our culture, we always say, “it’s so easy to please a man” and “so hard to please a woman.”
But please. Excuse me. At least you can breathe when you perform oral sex on a woman. You cannot always really do so when you perform oral sex on a man, because there is oftentimes a large object in the way of your wind pipe.
And is it all that more “simple”?
No! It isn’t. (And I can say this, I really can, with experience, because I have sexual relations with all genders.) The penis has good erogenous zones and bad ones, just like the female genitalia do. And it can be approached in many different complex ways, just like the female genitalia. Some people like some actions, and some people like others.*
Period. End of story. Everybody has preferences. It’s not just women.
We think women are harder to please because we have come from a history of shunning the female body.
Now: it may be slightly easier to bring a man to orgasm, especially young men (seriously, wow)… BUT data collected in hospital studies actually tells us that when women and men masturbate, it takes them the exact same amount of time to orgasm.
This fact is alarming, because what it means is that we have literally convinced ourselves that women cannot orgasm simply because (many) guys simply don’t want to make it happen…
and used something like “but female genitalia are so complicated!” as an excuse.
Guess what, everybody.
Not that complicated.
You might think then… so what?
“I don’t care all that much about sex.”
“I don’t care all that much about physical pleasure.”
Well, to be honest with you, I don’t either.
But I care about this so deeply because it is a part of an underlying problem:
when women are ignored, denied, mistreated, or misunderstood sexually, it means that they are being ignored, denied, mistreated, and misunderstood in other realms, too.
None of it is separate from anything else. Our culture’s attitude towards women permeates all aspects of our lives.
Because we do this. We think that women are mysterious.
Men are simple, we say. Women are complex!
Men are rational. Women are emotional and impulsive.
Men are straightforward. Women are circular.
Men are sane. B*tches be crazy.
These things are all very real, and very problematic.
So what do we do about it?
Chipping away at one specific angle of gender misconceptions at a time – and especially one as emotionally charged as sex organs – will go a long way toward making a more equitable, compassionate and empathetic future for the sexes.
I really believe it will. I do, I do.
-We get more open (pun unintended but awesome) in general about the vagina and the whole vulva.
-We become more comfortable with the words themselves. Vulva. Vagina. Clitoris. Vulva. Vagina. Clitoris.
-In fact, we make a point to emphasize the words ‘vulva’ and ‘clitoris’ because ‘vagina’ – the one that’s most well-known – is only the most famous one because it’s the part a man puts his penis in.
-We teach those words to young people as easily as we do other sexual terms.
-We have discussions with our lovers about how to please us. We don’t expect that people just know. In the culture we live in especially, that’s just not in the cards. It’s not necessarily fair. So we have to communicate openly and lovingly with our partners about what works for us and what doesn’t.
-We stand up for our right for sexual pleasure, along with all other kinds of reciprocity and empathetic treatment.
-We talk with young boys and girls about gender dynamics, and the history of gender imbalance.
-We educate young people about the physiology of both male and female bodies equally, and do not do so with language that discourages comfort with the female body.
… and that’s all I’ve got for ideas for now.
Do you have any ideas about what we can do?
Please let me know! I feel very strongly about this (not like that wasn’t obvious)….
So any input you have would be great!!
Finally, take a look at these three awesome books, which are the cornerstone of my sexual know-how and a big part of the reason I wrote this blog and feel this way:
And this post:
*The fact that we call the penis “simple” in fact I think has been detrimental to male pleasure, too – because it stops hetero women and queer men from treating this organ with the detailed attention it deserves.